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More than a Lifetime Away: World Faces 100-Year Wait for Gender Parity

MD Staff

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The time it will take to close the gender gap narrowed to 99.5 years in 2019. While an improvement on 2018 – when the gap was calculated to take 108 years to close – it still means parity between men and women across health, education, work and politics will take more than a lifetime to achieve. This is the finding of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, published today.

According to the report, this year’s improvement can largely be ascribed to a significant increase in the number of women in politics. The political gender gap will take 95 years to close, compared to 107 years last year. Worldwide in 2019, women now hold 25.2% of parliamentary lower-house seats and 21.2% of ministerial positions, compared to 24.1% and 19% respectively last year.

Politics, however, remains the area where least progress has been made to date. With Educational Attainment and Health and Survival much closer to parity on 96.1% and 95.7% respectively, the other major battlefield is economic participation. Here, the gap widened in 2019 to 57.8% closed from 58.1% closed in 2018. Looking simply at the progress that has been made since 2006 when the World Economic Forum first began measuring the gender gap, this economic gender gap will take 257 years to close, compared to 202 years last year.

Economic Gap Widening

The report attributes the economic gender gap to a number of factors. These include stubbornly low levels of women in managerial or leadership positions, wage stagnation, labour force participation and income. Women have been hit by a triple whammy: first, they are more highly represented in many of the roles that have been hit hardest by automation, for example, retail and white-collar clerical roles.

Second, not enough women are entering those professions – often but not exclusively technology-driven – where wage growth has been the most pronounced. As a result, women in work too often find themselves in middle-low wage categories that have been stagnant since the financial crisis 10 years ago.

Third, perennial factors such as lack of care infrastructure and lack of access to capital strongly limit women’s workforce opportunities. Women spend at least twice as much time on care and voluntary work in every country where data is available, and lack of access to capital prevents women from pursuing entrepreneurial activity, another key driver of income.

“Supporting gender parity is critical to ensuring strong, cohesive and resilient societies around the world. For business, too, diversity will be an essential element to demonstrate that stakeholder capitalism is the guiding principle. This is why the World Economic Forum is working with business and government stakeholders to accelerate efforts to close the gender gap,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Could the “Role Model Effect” close the gender gap?

One positive development is the possibility that a “role model effect” may be starting to have an impact in terms of leadership and possibly also wages. For example, in eight of the top 10 countries this year, high political empowerment corresponds with high numbers of women in senior roles. Comparing changes in political empowerment from 2006 to 2019 shows that improvements in political representation occurred simultaneously with improvements in women in senior roles in the labour market.

While this is a correlation, not a causation, in OECD countries, where women have been in leadership roles for relatively longer and social norms started to change earlier, role model effects could contribute to shaping labour market outcomes.

Gender Inequality in the Jobs of the Future

Possibly the greatest challenge preventing the economic gender gap from closing is women’s under-representation in emerging roles. New analysis conducted in partnership with LinkedIn shows that women are, on average, heavily under-represented in most emerging professions. This gap is most pronounced across our “cloud computing” job cluster where only 12% of all professionals are women. The situation is hardly better in “engineering” (15%) and “Data and AI” (26%), however women do outnumber men in two fast-growing job clusters, “content production” and “people and culture”.

According to our data, this reality presents leaders intent on addressing the gender gap in the future with two key challenges. The first and most obvious challenge is that more must be done to equip women with the skills to perform the most in-demand jobs. Indeed, there is an economic cost of not doing so as skills shortages in these professions hold back economic growth.

The second is possibly more complex. According to our data, even where women have the relevant in-demand skillset they are not always equally represented. In data science, for example, 31% of those with the relevant skillset are women even though only 25% of roles are held by women. Likewise, there is no gender gap in terms of skills when it comes to digital specialists, however only 41% of these jobs are performed by women.

These facts point to three key strategies that must be followed to hardwire gender equality into future workforces: to ensure women are equipped in the first place – either through skilling or reskilling – with disruptive technical skills; to follow-up by enhancing diverse hiring; and to create inclusive work cultures.

“Insights from LinkedIn’s Economic Graph can help policymakers, business leaders, and educators understand and prepare for how women will be represented in the future workforce. Our data shows that meaningful action is needed to build the systems and talent pipelines required to close the gender gap in tech and ensure women have an equal role in building the future,” said Allen Blue, Co-Founder and Vice-President, Product Strategy, LinkedIn.

What the Forum is Doing to Close the Gender Gap

The World Economic Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society aims to close economic gender gaps through both in-country and global industry work. Through Closing the Gender Gap Accelerators, the Forum drives change by setting up action coalitions between relevant ministries and the largest employers in the country to increase female labour force participation, the number of women in leadership positions, closing wage gaps and preparing women for jobs of the future. Additionally, the global business commitment on Hardwiring Gender Parity in the Future of Work mobilizes businesses to commit to hiring 50% women for their five highest growth roles between now and 2022. Finally, the Forum has committed to at least double the current percentage of women participants at the Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, by 2030.

“To get to parity in the next decade instead of the next two centuries, we will need to mobilize resources, focus leadership attention and commit to targets across the public and private sectors. Business-as-usual will not close the gender gap – we must take action to achieve the virtuous cycle that parity creates in economies and societies,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head of the Centre for the New Economy and Society and Member of the Managing Board, World Economic Forum.

The Global Gender Gap in 2020

Nordic countries continue to lead the way to gender parity. Iceland (87.7%) remains the world’s most gender-equal country, followed by Norway (2nd, 84.2%), Finland (3rd, 83.2%) and Sweden (4th, 82.0%). Other economies in the top 10 include Nicaragua (5th, 80.4%), New Zealand (6th, 79.9%), Ireland (7th, 79.8%), Spain (8th, 79.5%), Rwanda (9th, 79.1%) and Germany (10th, 78.7%).

Among the countries that improve the most this year are Spain in Western Europe, Ethiopia in Africa, Mexico in Latin America, and Georgia in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. These countries all improved their positions in the ranking by more than 20 places, largely driven by improvements in the political empowerment dimension.

Western Europe is the best performing region for the 14th consecutive year. With an average score of 76.7% (out of 100), the region has now closed 77% of its gender gap, further improving from last edition. At the current pace, it will take 54 years to close the gap in Western Europe. The region is home to the four most gender-equal countries in the world, namely in order Iceland (87.7%), Norway (84.2%) and Finland (83.2%) and Sweden (82.0%), and one country (Spain, 8th) is among the most improved countries this year.

The North America region regroups the United States (72.4%, 53rd) and Canada (77.2%, 19th). Both countries’ performances are stalling, especially in terms of economic participation and opportunity. At this rate it will take 151 years to close the gap.

The Eastern Europe and Central Asia region has closed 71.5% of its gender gap so far with a slight improvement since last year. To date the time to fully close its overall gender gap is estimated to be 107 years. The region has fully closed its educational gap and has improved women’s political empowerment which however remains only closed at 15%. 21 of the 26 countries in this region have closed at least 70% and the top-ranked country, Latvia, 11th has closed 78.5% of its gap.

The Latin America and the Caribbean region has closed 72.1% of its gender gap so far, progressing 1 percentage points since last year. At this rate it will take 59 years to close the gender gap. The most noticeable improvement is on the Political empowerment dimension where the region closes its gap by 5 percentage points. Led my Nicaragua that has closed 80.4% of its gap (5th), 15 of the 24 countries covered by the report have improved their overall scores. Among the most improved countries, Mexico reduced its gender gap by 3.4 points on a year-over-year basis.

The Sub-Saharan Africa region has closed 68.0% of its gender gap so far. This result is a significant progress since last edition which leads to revise down the number of years it will take to close the gender gap, which is now estimated at 95 years. The region is home of one of the top-ten countries overall Rwanda (9th) while another 21 countries have improved their performances since last year, including Ethiopia (82nd) one of the best improved this year globally.

The East Asia and Pacific Region has closed 69% of the overall gender gap. If the region maintains the same rate of improvement as the 2006-2019 period, and given the current gap, it will take another 163 years to close the gender gap, the most time of any region. The region has improved on three of the four gender gap dimensions and has been the only region where political empowerment gap has widened (16% closed so far). The best performing country is New Zealand 6th, which has closed 79.9% of its gap. It is followed by the Philippines 16th with 78.1% closed and Lao PDR, 43rd with a score of 73.1%.

South Asia region has closed two thirds of its gender gap. The region’s gender gap is the second largest despite a progress of 6 points over the past 14 years. If the rate of progress of the past 15 years was to continue it will take 71 years to close the region’s gender gap. However, in contrast with the overall’s performance, the region’s Economic participation and opportunity gap widens this year. Bangladesh (50th) leads the region, while the second ranked country, Nepal, lags several positions behind (101th)

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region obtains the lowest score (61.1%) despite having narrowed its gap by 0.5 points since last year. Assuming the same rate of progress going forward it will take approximately 150 years to close the gender gap in the MENA region. The two most highly ranked countries in the region are Israel (64th) with a closed gap to date of 71.8% and the United Arab Emirates (120th) with a score of 65.5%. 15 of the 19 countries in this region rank 130th or lower.

Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society

The Global Gender Gap Report is a flagship publication of the World Economic Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society. The Platform provides the opportunity to advancing prosperous, inclusive and equitable economies and societies. It focuses on co-creating a new vision in three interconnected areas: growth and competitiveness; education, skills and work; and equality and inclusion. Working together, stakeholders deepen their understanding of complex issues, shape new models and standards and drive scalable, collaborative action for systemic change.

Over 100 of the world’s leading companies and 100 international, civil society and academic organizations currently work through the Platform to promote new approaches to competitiveness in the Fourth Industrial Revolution economy; deploy education and skills for tomorrow’s workforce; build a new pro-worker and pro-business agenda for jobs; and integrate equality and inclusion into the new economy, aiming to reach 1 billion people with improved economic opportunities.

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New Social Compact

Right to Education as an elementary Human Right: From Thinking to Living it

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The situation of education in general, and of higher education in particular, is not considered as a priority in developing countries. Unfortunately, all development depends on a good education. Many countries suffer not only of the absence of quality education, but also from a lack of accessibility for its citizens. Many of them suffer from not being able to study.

The exercise of citizenship must allow everyone to become an actor of society. To be an actor requires a good understanding of the role, the place and the rights be recognized by everyone. To be an actor means to be responsible in a social and democratic framework relying on values and references shared by all. «The practice of citizenship relies on participation spaces open to all. Otherwise, in many developing countries, as the level of education is very low, citizens do not consider themselves actors of their country’s development. »[1]They block the progress of their country and create other problems in security, the economy, politics, social issues and above all in an increase in unemployment. Indeed, a large part of the population is active, but instead of creating jobs, it is looking for employment. Thus, if everyone looks for a job, the number of openings is small. This has a negative impact on the resources of the State. «The challenges of contemporary societies are mostly characterised by complexity and are part of a global interdependence. In the face of globalization, the education of people to be good citizens must widen its scope from local, regional and national levels to a global dimension ».[2]

According to the document (UNESCO, 2014) UNESCO Education Strategy 2014-2021, approximately 774 million adults, of which two thirds are women, could neither read, nor write in 2011. More than 50% of this adult illiterate population lived in South and West Asia and a quarter approximately in sub-Saharan Africa; 10 countries alone represent 72% of the total. In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of illiterate adults has, in fact, increased by 37% these last twenty years to reach 182 million in 2011. According to these forecasts, the world total will still be of 743 million in 2015, a reduction of only 16% as against the number in 1985-1994 with regard to data on illiteracy (UNESCO, 2014b). It is the aim of education for all (EFA) which is the most difficult to reach.

Although illiteracy is mostly concentrated in the developing and highly populated countries, the problem continues to be pervasive. Developed countries also present large pockets of poverty, in which evaluations show that no less than one adult on five, in other words 160 million persons, have very low literary competencies, being unable to read, write and calculate in daily life (UNESCO, 2012.

Literacy, beyond being a basic competency, is also a prerequisite to access to all forms and all levels of apprenticeship all along life, as well as a base enabling quality education for all.

Being deprived of basic literacy competencies is a factor that leads to being excluded from many aspects of existence, and it covers important dimensions of gender and poverty. Governments and lending institutions are often insufficiently concerned with illiteracy. In the same manner, less than 3% of the national education budget is devoted to literacy and adult education programmes.

Education and life-long training

Education and life-long training are key elements of a strong and reasoned strategy which have become a powerful weapon in a dynamic world obsessed by competitivity. The way we see our neighbours is also part of our worries when we are looking to be inspired by tools and policies that they develop for continuous qualitative and quantitative improvement, of our educational systems, that will lead to a social integration and cohesion of nations (Newgreen, 2002).

Education and higher education are fundamental elements. They allow each individual to build his life, not only on a private basis, but also professionally, and also to contribute to the economic, political, and social aspects of the country in which they live.

To be effective, higher education demands, as a fundamental element, time, a certain slow pace, stability, tranquillity and even a minimum of comfort. Education is one of the most important levers in development. It is also, one of the most efficient mechanisms to guarantee peace and stability of a country. «We live in a rapidly evolving world, increasingly interdependent, in which knowledge and innovation are major development factors ».[3]

Stakeholders in the general environment of higher education

According to Burridge et al, education and higher education are as important as water to ensure life. In light of our research, we have noticed that all the economic, political, and social development of a country depends in large part to education that will impact the general environment of that country, and thus of the entire region. Obviously, education takes its roots at primary school, but we have limited our research to higher education.

In the framework of our research, we have identified certain stakeholders such as the citizens who are directly impacted by war. A well-educated society, capable of distinguishing good from bad, will attempt to avoid certain conflicts so as to live in peace. The Afghan population suffers from a lack of education and this opens the possibility for certain rebel groups to convince young men to undertake acts that are contrary to peace.

Education is one of the important factors in the social and economic development of a country. All the actors of social and economic life, who are stakeholders, suffer the consequences of the absence of penetration of higher education, at best a very low penetration, as outlined by several reports, such as those of the World Bank, UNESCO, and what we also observe in our empirical experience.

All the stakeholders, in the private and public sectors, feel the low use or the near-absence of technological development, which, however, is an absolute need today so as to avoid an important delay in productivity and thus, competitivity. The different educational levels feel the absence of means to train students in the use of basic technology. We have not identified a theory which outlines the fact that societies in developing countries must remain unchanged.«In the competitive and dynamic environment of the modern economies of knowledge, the educational policies occupy a central place and, if needed, can fulfil the functions that are normally traditionally part of investment such as policies of social protection».[4]

The emergence of the notion of ‘Life competencies’

« The four pillars of a quality education as defined by UNESCO (2000) allows to put the basis of a strategy that could assist to raise this challenge. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Afghanistan and in many developing countries.

Learning to know : education must assist students to acquire the instruments of knowledge, in other words, the necessary tools of communication and oral expression, reading, arithmetic and the art of problem resolution, to possess both a solid general culture and the deep knowledge of a few fields, to understand what are the rights and responsibilities and, above all, to learn to learn.

Learning to do : education must assist students to acquire the know-how and the social and psychological competencies that will allow them to make informed decisions in diverse situations, to manage social relations and relations at work, to access local and global markets, use technological tools, satisfy fundamental needs and improve quality of their life and the life of others.

Learning to be: education must contribute to the flourishing of individual personality and allow them to act with more autonomy, of judgement, of critical thought and of personal responsibility. It must develop all the aspects of a person’s potential such as, for instance, memory, reasoning, esthetical values, spiritual values, physical capabilities and the art of communication. It must encourage a healthy lifestyle, the liking of sports, of leisure, of the appreciation of one’s own culture, the respect of ethical and moral code, the art of making oneself valuable and of defending oneself, and the capacity of rebounding.”

Learning to live together: education must reinforce the know-how at students and the aptitudes likely to help them to accept mutual interdependence».[5]

Result:

According to the recommendations of the Organisation of the United Nations (UN), the international responsibility of governments and political leaders regarding the exercise of the right to education is to find a rapid and lasting solution to this challenge so as to better integrate the international community which check the effective exercise of the right enumerated which check, on the one hand, the application and the conformity with the «United Nations Pact relating to economic social and cultural rights» and on the other «the United Nations Pact relating to civil and political rights.»«One can state that facing the uncertain future and the multiple challenges that post-conflict States experience that have led to irreversible, and often permanently damaging, consequences, education must bring a final advantage to re-establish, through freedom and social justice, the conditions of preventive and balanced management of conflicts. This allows it to progress, while respecting the conditions of sustainable development, towards the expected peace ideals. »[6]

« The knowledge generated by the economy of education may thus assist the governments to optimize their policies through better informed choice, thus contributing the attainment of the objective of a sustained and equitable growth that mobilises all the citizens.»[7]

According to UNESCO’s Education Strategy 2014-2021, the political leaders must study to better exploit the potential of information technologies and communication (TIC) in education. The presence of sustainable infrastructure and financing issues, of the content of quality-insurance, represent, in this field, key issues, just like the question of available means to develop and put in place pluri-dimensional policies in matters of online security and ethics.

Education to citizenship allows to acquire new knowledge that will directly impact the economic, political and social life of the country. «The first function of education is to transmit an inheritance and to teach the ethical principles and the framework of law (national and international) that determines communal living. However, society today more than ever, faces rapid changes and challenges in embedded in complex global challenges. These challenges require societal changes to which a citizen should be able to participate. However, transmission and education are insufficient on their own: the education for citizenship must allow the exercise of new competencies: to enter into complexity, to manage uncertainty, to position oneself, to imagine new solutions and to participate in their realization. »[8]

The general experience of life and the ordinary unfolding of things show that when citizens who live and work in a given society are very well educated, there are less conflicts, for they are able to resolve their problems by discussion, dialogue, and common understanding. The example of countries in which social dialogue is the main governance vector, such as Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, etc, is more than welcome.

A well-educated society can only be a democratic society because it constantly counts on the capacity and the behaviour of its citizens; and each citizen feels important for his country.

If we take the case of Afghanistan today, it is a rich country with considerable natural resources, but the country finds itself in extreme poverty. Our analysis brings two explanations for this situation: the poverty of knowledge, first of all, that does not allow citizens to contribute to the development of the country and to correctly use their competencies and their rights; the poverty of the leadership, on one hand, that concentrate themselves exclusively on the acquisition of power instead of concentrating on the best manner to help the population. As a backdrop, one can see a situation in which the political leaders take advantage of the naivety and low educational level of their fellow citizens to stay in power and to profit from their advantages.  

The conclusions of our research shows that it is impossible to develop a country without prioritising education. To illustrate our working methodology, we have developed a competency matrix to helps Afghanistan become a stable state by developing a distance learning system.

Matrix of the competencies of a citizen

CompetenciesCriteriaSituationToolsEvaluation
  Active citizen    Positively participate in his individual development which will impact later, on different scales, such as family, clan, tribal, ethnic and national, and even in light of the entire country’s development, instead of concentrating on his personal interests.    Live together and contribute together to one’s own development as well as that of the country.  Education is the primary source to become an active citizen, positive and understanding.  Living together without conflict Societal progress.      
Know one’s own importance and valuesBe capable of undergoing auto-evaluation, to understand its importance, oneself, one’s values and those that still require development.  Use positive values for oneself and for one’s family; allow all members of one’s family to optimize their capabilities.Schools, universities and the professional environment allow us to be with others and to understand well our values and those of others.Non-violent communication. Personal evolution.
Know one’s rights as well as those of othersUnderstand the importance of one’s fundamental rights as well as those of others.  Mutual respect, whatever the age, gender and/or belief.EducationAvoid violence and live in peace.
Capacity of expressing oneself  Aptitude to develop and defend oneself in a calm and legal manner.  Express oneself without wounding others and make the situation more complex.  EducationRespect others.
Consciousness of power  Understand one’s own values as a citizen, as well as the importance of voting rights.In exercising one’s voting rights, elect deserving persons so as to stabilize the country’s political and social situation.  EducationAppoint leaders according to their and competencies that have a positive impact on the country’s management.
Equality and freedom  Understand the importance of equality as well as truly expressing his claims depending on the situation in which he finds himself.  Rule of lawEducation Citizen’s behaviours that can degrade or improve the situation.  Live in peace and in freedom. Express oneself without fear in the mutual respect.
The possibility of taking responsibilitiesAssume responsibilities for one’s family and in society and understand one’s own contribution.  Be active in social, economic and political life when one wishes to do so.Give the chance in equal proportions to all citizens without any exclusion.Participate in socioeconomic developments.
Incidence on Human RightsDistinguish between good and bad, and become conscious of one’s acts against others.Be capable of understanding sanctions and consequences when one breaks the rules of law.  Education and the application of laws in an equalitarian manner.Respect of law and fundamental freedoms Avoid all sorts of conflicts.
Understand, in a basic way, at a small scale, the phenomena tied to globalisation.  Become conscious of the changes in other parts of the world.Each country develops first of all because of the sum of individual actions.Ensure diversity of the country thanks to the contributions of different nationalities.Understand the economic, political, social situation of other countries, and apply to oneself the positive elements, if necessary.
Importance of the familyUnderstand that the family is very important and that women play an important role in the family well as in society.Each member of the family plays an important role for himself as well as for economic, political and social development of the country.EducationRespect the choices and the points of view of each family member to avoid conflicts and violence.
Use (tools) of the new technologies of information and communication (TIC) in an interactive manner (language, technology).Instrumental competency.Une, in one’s activities, of adequate technologies to facilitate tasks; if necessary, transfer best practices.EducationFaster and more efficient results.
Interact in heterogeneous groups.Social competencies whatever the religion and(or the beliefs. Transcend the differences.  Participate in social life in one’s city, village, town, etc.EducationBe capable of working in groups, whatever its origins and/or beliefs.
Act in an autonomous and consensual manner.  Personal competency for all that concerns the decisions of daily life.  Assume the responsibility of one’s decisions.Education  Work individually if necessary, with the proposed solutions.
Knowledge, know-how, social skills and life planning.Know one’s past, concentrate on the present and create one’s future.Concentrate on the future rather than concentrating on useless subjects.Education  Have a life vision, according to one’s capacities.
Exemplarity  Be an active and contributing citizen thanks to one’s actions.Motivate others so that they also become active in life.Positive action of citizens.Show to others the importance of citizens to one’s country.

Conclusion

We have noted that it is very difficult, and even impossible to respect the citizenship norms or the establishment of democracy or the respect of human rights in a country without putting the accent on the competencies of active and understanding citizens. We have observed that in many countries, there are conflicts between politicians (points of view on political ideology), but they manage to discuss, to negotiate and to obtain power through democratic rights, for they are citizens. The lack of reflection of citizens in the choice of their leaders and their policy in developing countries is the source of numerous conflicts, including civil wars. Hence the importance of insisting on the apprenticeship of citizenship, which allows populations to be in charge of their destiny by actively participating in the life of the nation. This is why education must prioritise the development of the citizen’s competencies, such as the knowledge of oneself, of its importance and its values; the knowledge of the one’s rights and those of others; the ability to express oneself; the knowledge of one’s power; equality and freedom; the possibility of assuming one’s responsibilities; the primacy of human rights; the understanding of the phenomena linked to globalization; the centrality of the family; the use of new technologies of information; the knowledge, know-how, social skills and life planning; empowerment and exemplarity.

Each of these elements include, criteria, situations, tools and parameters to evaluate the citizen’s competency matrix which must serve as a learning tool of citizenship.

For a country to be able to develop economically, politically and socially, the political leaders must give priority above all else to an action plan on the competencies of citizens. This contribution will make it easier for the present and future leaders. If that is not the case, the government will transmit poverty from generation to generation.


[1] Education à la citoyenneté mondiale : https://www.education21.ch/fr/edd/approches/education-a-la-citoyennete-mondiale

[2] http://www.globaleducation.ch/globallearning_fr/pages/BA/BA_Re.php

[3] Stratégie de l’UNESCO : L’éducation 2014-2021.

[4] http://www.eenee.de/fr/eeneeHome/Economics-of-Education.html

[5] Colloque international Education, violences, conflits et perspectives de paix en Afrique, Yaoundé, 6 au 10 mars 2006,

Milène Trabelsi et Jean-Luc Dubois

[6] Colloque international « ducation, violences, conflits et perspectives de paix en Afrique, Yaoundé, 6 au 10 mars 2006,

Milène Trabelsi et Jean-Luc Dubois

[7] http://www.eenee.de/fr/eeneeHome/Economics-of-Education.html

[8] Charly Maurer, L’éducation à la citoyenneté, Fondation Éducation et Développement, 2008, 4

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Social Innovators of the Year – meet the first responders to the COVID-19 crisis

MD Staff

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Lindiwe Matlali, Founder and CEO, Africa Teen Geeks

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship today announced 23 awardees for social innovation in 2020.

From building hospitals in rural India, empowering Black-communities in Brazil, providing financial resources to last-mile communities in Ghana, harnessing 4IR technology to promote equity in education in South Africa, raising over 100 million USD for lower income families in the USA, to breaking the glass ceiling in the public sector in Spain, the 2020 Social Innovators of the Year includes a list of outstanding founders and chief executive officers, multinational and regional business leaders, government leaders and recognized experts.

This ecosystem of change-makers is being recognised for driving significant social and environmental impact in service of vulnerable and excluded communities and have been well placed to respond to the needs of those disproportionately affected by the COVID pandemic.

The awardees were selected by Schwab Foundation board members in recognition of their innovative approach and potential for global impact. Some of these Board members include Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Prime Minister of Denmark (2011-2015), and social innovation expert Johanna Mair, Professor of Organization, Strategy and Leadership at the Hertie School of Governance in Germany, and H.M. Queen Mathilde of Belgium (Honorary Board Member).

“The Schwab Foundation Social Innovators stand for trust, truth and service. They truly devote their lives through innovative actions to improve livelihoods,” said Hilde Schwab, Co-Founder and Chairperson of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. “The Social Innovators of the Year 2020 represent a new ecosystem of leaders who are driving change and shifting organizations and systems towards a more just, inclusive, sustainable future”.

“The Schwab Foundation’s Social Innovators of the Year 2020 are pioneering agents of change, re-setting the way our institutions operate. Their work is incredibly pertinent as we respond, recover and reset from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, that has disproportionately affected excluded and vulnerable populations”, said François Bonnici, Head of the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

The 2020 Schwab Foundation Awards are hosted in partnership with the Motsepe Foundation, founded on the philosophy of ‘ubuntu’, the African concept of giving and caring for your neighbour and other members of your community. “The 2020 Social Innovators of the Year prove that the complex work of reducing inequality and transforming society is possible by instilling human-centred innovation with principles of equity and justice into the levers of policy, finance, and research”, said Precious Moloi-Motsepe, Co-Chair, Motsepe Foundation

Social innovators are needed more than ever, but face immense challenges to operate, serve and support communities during this crisis. Therefore, the Schwab Foundation and the World Economic Forum, launched the COVID Response Alliance for Social Entrepreneurs with the goal to aid social entrepreneurs during the crisis and its aftermath. The Alliance, which consists of over 60 global members, representing over 50,000 social entrepreneurs globally, launched an Action Agenda outlining ways to support social entrepreneurs as first responders to the COVID-19 crisis.

The 2020 awardees are:

Social Entrepreneurs:

Founders or chief executive officers who solve a social or environmental problem, with a focus on low-income, marginalized or vulnerable populations

Lindiwe Matlali, Founder and CEO, Africa Teen Geeks (South Africa). This organisation’s AI-based learning platform for STEM subjects equalises equalizing access and quality of education for all students regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds, reaching over 100,000 students.

Daniel Asare-Kyei, Co-Founder and CEO, Esoko (Ghana). This company’s pioneering agriculture technology is powering Africa’s digital revolution, by providing critical services to millions of farmers and last mile communities.

Sooinn Lee, Enuma Inc, Co-Founder and CEO (USA).Enuma’s Kitkit School and other products use technology and design to empower all children to learn early reading, writing, and math independently, regardless of initial abilities and access.

Dharsono Hartono, Co-Founder and CEO, PT Rimba Makmur (Indonesia). This company is saving one of the largest areas of peat swamp forests in Indonesia while offering local populations sustainable income sources.

Anushka Ratnayake, Founder and CEO, myAgro (Senegal). This award-winning organisation is creating village entrepreneurs in 60,000 farmers in West Africa. myAgro creating a unique mobile layaway platform that allows farmers to use their mobile phones to purchase seeds and fertilizer in small increments

Javier Goyeneche, Founder and President, Ecoalf (Spain). This company is revolutionising the fashion industry one plastic bottle at a time. EcoAlf has collected over 500 tonnes of waste from the bottom of the ocean and recycled over 200 million plastic bottles to make high-quality and 100% sustainable fashion products.

Shanti Raghavan, Co-founder and Managing Trustee, EnAble India and Dipesh Sutariya, Co-founder and CEO, EnAble India (India). EnAble India is building the Indian ecosystem of skilling, employment and entrepreneurship for persons with disabilities through technology innovations, breakthroughs in skill trainings, new workplace solutions and behaviour change tools, partnering with 725 companires, 200 BGOs and multiple universities.

Guilherme Brammer Jr, Founder and CEO, Boomera (Brazil). This revolutionary circular economy business brings together industry, academia and environmental agents to turn waste that is difficult to recycle into raw materials or new products.

Jesús Gerena, Chief Executive Officer, Family Independence Initiative (USA). This national centre for anti-poverty innovation offers results-based, community-driven solutions to reducing poverty raising over 100 million USD to help thousands of families in the United States during the COVID-19 crisis.

Azim Sabahat, Chief Executive Officer, Glocal Healthcare Systems (India). In a short time, this company established 12 hospitals, over 250 digital dispensaries and a Telemedicine network spanning 8 countries, delivering low cost healthcare using technology to over 1.5 Mn patients.

Adriana Barbosa, Chief Executive Officer, PretaHub (Brazil). This company empowers the social mobility of Brazil’s Black population by promoting Black entrepreneurship, and addressing structural racism and gender disparities to promote entrepreneurship based on opportunities.

Ashif Shaikh, Founder & Director, Jan Sahas, (India). This revolutionary organisation has empowered millions of migrant workers in India by establishing and providing access to social security delivery system using a mobile app.

Corporate Social Intrapreneurs:

Leaders within multinational or regional companies who drive the development of new products, initiatives, services or business models that address societal and environmental challenges

Prashant Mehra Vice-President, Social Inclusion, Mindtree (India). Prashant spearheaded technology platforms as a public good and capital asset that work at the grassroots level and address market inefficiencies reaching over 2 million people.

Corinne Bazina, General Manager, Danone Communities, Danone (France). Under Corinne Bazina’s, Danone Communities supports 12 social businesses who develop sustainable models that address challenges such as malnutrition, access to water, and overall poverty reduction, across 15 countries and is directly reaching 6 million people every day.

Nicola Galombik, Executive Director, Inclusive and Sustainable Growth Catalyst Division, Yellowwoods Holding Sarl (South Africa). Under Galombik’s leadership, this company reaches over 1 million direct beneficiaries, including economically marginalized children, public school students, young work-seekers, and inclusive suppliers in the Yellowwoods business value chains.

Hadi Wibowo,President Director, Bank BTPN Syariah. This is the only bank in Indonesia that focuses on serving productive underprivileged families, also known as the “unbankable” for having neither financial records nor legal documentation. His prior experience in the parent company, Bank BTPN, includes leading Branchless Banking, a financial inclusion initiative. He has reached over 7 million people throughout his work with the unbanked communities.

Social Innovation Thought Leaders:

Recognized experts and champions shaping the evolution of social innovation

Jaff Shen Dongshu, Chief Executive Officer, Leping Social Entrepreneur Foundation (People’s Republic of China). Jaff transformed and strengthened the social innovation space in China, partnering with global, domestic, business, academic and social sector partners.

Tse Ka Kui (KK), Co-Founder and Chair, Education for Good CIC Ltd. (Hong Kong SAR). KK is at the helm of many initiatives, projects and partnerships that have helped influence the field of social innovation in Hong Kong, and even taught the first course on social entrepreneurship at Hong Kong University.

Ndidi O. Nwuneli, Co-Founder Sahel Consulting Agriculture & Nutrition Ltd. & AACE Foods, and Founder of LEAP Africa and Nourishing Africa (Nigeria). Ndidi’s impact on agriculture, nutrition, youth development, and philanthropy sectors across West Africa has been significant given her role in shaping policy, launching ecosystem solutions, and training the next generation of social innovators. Her research and books on scaling social innovation, agriculture and food entrepreneurship, ethics, governance, and succession are widely utilized by entrepreneurs in the region.

Cathy Clark, Faculty Director, CASE (The Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship), Duke University (USA). Cathy has helped to define and build impact investing and social entrepreneurship for over 30 years. She is a serial “intrapreneur”, collaborative partner and pioneering influencer.

Public Social Intrapreneurs:

Government leaders who harness the power of social innovation social entrepreneurship to create public good through policy, regulation or public initiatives

Ada Colau i Ballano, Mayor of Barcelona (Spain). Ballano is the first woman to hold the office of the Mayor of Barcelona, as part of the citizen municipalist platform, Barcelona En Comú. Colau was one of the founding members and spokespeople of the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (Platform for People Affected by Mortgages).

Cynthia McCaffrey, UNICEF Representative to China (People’s Republic of China). Under her leadership, UNICEF Global Innovation has reached millions of at-risk children and youth around the world.

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New Social Compact

Will COVID 19 further exacerbate xenophobia and populism?

Gary Rynhart

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Refugees and migrants gather at the Pazarkule border crossing near Edirne, Turkey, hoping to travel into Greece. © UNICEF

The onset of COVID 19 saw a significant rise in racism and xenophobia.  From racist incidents against Africans in Guangzhou to anti-Asian racism to just about everywhere. 

This comes after a decade of rising xenophobia driven by the fallout from the global financial crisis of 2008. Duarte, Trump, Erdogan, Bolsonoro, Johnson, Xi Jinping and Putin all traded successfully in these waters.  Last year the United Nation’s Secretary-General António Gutiérrez formed a special UN team to combat hate speech. As an example of the growing hate discourse he cited ‘how the debate on human mobility, for example, has been poisoned with false narratives linking refugees and migrants to terrorism and scapegoating them for many of society’s ills.’ The fear now is that as the global economy enters a prolonged period of economic recession this will create a fertile environment to extenuate further xenophobia along with its populist political cheerleaders.

2020 also saw the Black Lives Matters movement emerge into the political and social discourse in what seems like an epoch defining way. Add it all together and it seems that we have reached a tipping point of global racial discord and distrust of the ‘other’.

History can be instructive here. The onset of the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920 was bookended eleven years later by a global financial crash in 1929. The exact opposite sequence has now happened. The global financial crisis of 2008 has been bookended by COVID 19, also eleven years later in 2019.

This disrupted sequence may actually prove significant. The first (financial) crisis in 2008 ushered in many populist politicians; the second crisis (health) exposed them. Many of the most badly affected countries, as a consequence of poor crisis management, come from this pool of populist administrations.

The economic consequences of the shutdowns are already playing out and more pain will follow through into 2021, but electorates and populations do have the near history hindsight of populist promises post the 2008 financial crisis to consider. This may well in time steer populations away from the same fiery promises of nationalist exceptionalism and sunlit uplands.

Some commentators think the advent of vaccine nationalism will provide political deliverance for these same populist leaders. Yet if countries with a large number of cases lag in obtaining the vaccine and other medicines, the disease will continue to disrupt global supply chains and, as a result, economies around the world. That is in nobody’s interest.

Additionally, the assertion that xenophobia and discrimination are all on an upward trajectory can be contested. For example, according to a 2019 Pew Research Centre survey of 18 countries, in 1994 63 per cent of US citizens felt immigrants were a burden on the country. Fast forward 25 years and the figures are reversed. By a ratio of two to one, US citizens are pro-migration.  According to the same Pew survey, majorities in top migrant destination countries, which host half of the world’s migrants, say immigrants strengthen their countries. Majorities in the UK, France, Spain, Australia, Canada, Sweden and Germany all agree with the statement ‘migrants make my country stronger’.

There is also a generational shift in play. According to the results from the 2017 ‘Global Shapers Survey’ by the World Economic Forum, for a large majority of young people, identity is not about region, geography, religion or ethnicity; they simply see themselves as ‘human’. This is also the most popular answer choice across all regions. Majorities in the US among Generation Z (born after 2000) and Generation Y (born after 1981) say increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the US is a good thing for society. In 1958, only four per cent of Americans approved of inter-racial marriage, according to Gallup polling. Support only crossed the 50-per-cent threshold in 1997. It has now reached 87 per cent.

All this is has been feeding into the calculus of global companies who are becoming unlikely champions in the fight against xenophobia.

According to a 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 69 per cent of employees who believe their senior-management teams are diverse see their working environments as motivating and stimulating. And 78 per cent of Millennials who say their top teams are diverse report that their organizations perform strongly in generating profits. Firms seen as diverse and perceived to have a diverse workforce are rated highly by Gen Y and Z. They want to work for them and buy their stuff.

In many ways, COVID 19 will probably push the private sector further in the diversity and inclusion direction, although the need to do this is in a more structured way (a recent global survey found only 35% of companies gathered data on company diversity).

Diversity particularly in decision-making brings multiple perspectives to bear on problems. This is not just corporate guff – this stuff really matters.   There is plenty of empirical evidence to back all this up. In the 2008–09 global financial crisis, banks with a higher share of women on their boards were more stable than their peers and the evidence suggest that banks run by women might be less vulnerable in a crisis.

This is not to downplay the pervasive threat that xenophobia presents. It continues to impact on millions of people’s daily lives, often in most distressing ways. Migrants are still being washed up on Greek beaches while the well-heeled look the other way.

Yet, there is plenty of counter evidence for optimism.  Populist leaders have been found out. Greater global connectivity is helping create greater awareness of different perspectives, views, cultures and ways of doing things. Many Front line workers in hospitals treating the victims of COVID 19 (along with supermarket workers and cleaners) are migrants leading to a greater appreciation of their role in societies.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell remarked that collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.

With so much talk of ‘herd immunity’ COVID 19 has clearly demonstrated  that we are all in fact part of the same herd.

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